Trubisky’s Play Against the Titans Could Be Disappointing and Other Points of View

“I anticipate the Bears drafting at the top of the draft again next year. If an All-Pro left tackle is available in the draft, do the Bears still take one that high or do they look at other positions now that Leno is signed for the foreseeable future?”

“— Corey S., South Side”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears were to include offensive tackle among the positions they would consider with a first-round draft pick in 2018 but [Charles] Leno profiles better on the left side than the right side… The Bears have made a solid financial commitment to Leno and I’d be awful surprised if they were to go away from him after one season. They believe he can be entrenched there for several seasons to come. That being said, right tackle Bobby Massie was shaky last year, particularly in the first two months of the season. The Bears made a run at right tackle Ricky Wagner in free agency and that signaled to me they were willing to make a change at that position. Depending on how Massie performs this season, certainly tackle could be a need for the Bears once again.”

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Bears tried to replace Massie this year, yet. Pre-season cuts are coming and if the right guy is released for the right reasons, the Bears might well choose to pick up a player in the same way that they signed Josh Sitton right before the season started last year.

Continuity is an issue in those situations but the Bears obviously aren’t afraid of disrupting that. Their actions with Sitton last year and Kyle Long’s switch from right to left guard and the movement around the line we’ve seen in the preseason with players like Cody Whitehair to close the gap pretty much tell us that getting the five best players on the field supersedes everything there.

“The team clearly likes Kendall Wright better as a slot receiver right now. I don’t think Braverman has much of a shot to make the 53-man roster and he might not stick around on the practice squad.”

I blame Jay Cutler.

“Kicker Roberto Aguayo might be running out of time to earn a roster spot.

“Coach John Fox doesn’t often criticize players to the media yet opened Friday’s news conference by highlighting Aguayo’s practice struggles. After the second-year kicker sliced a 49-yard kick wide right against the Cardinals last weekend, he faces an uphill battle to unseat Connor Barth. Fox wasn’t sure how much the Bears could do to help Aguayo get out of his rut.

“‘It’s like working with golfers,’ Fox said. ‘It doesn’t really matter much what they do on the driving range, it matters what’s on the course. … We’re going to mess with him. We don’t have a long look but he’s been very receptive. And that’s an area where we need to improve.’”

Aguayo pretty much blew any chance he had to make the team when he missed the field goal that Wiederer mentions. Which brings us to the real question – why is he still on the roster?

There are two possibilities here.

  1. As valuable as positions on the 53 man roster are, as Fox mentions, a change in needed at kicker because Barth, as accurate as he is at short range, doesn’t have the leg to kick longer field goals or, more to the point, handle kickoffs effectively. It’s entirely possible that they’re going to keep Aguayo just for that.
  2. Aguayo could still be placed on a practice squad.

Both possibilities would allow the Bears to continue to try to correct his mechanics and make him a more accurate field goal kicker.

“This is supposed to be a pivotal season for the dynamic receiver. But through two exhibition outings, White has been invisible. Two catches, 2 yards. The Bears passing game needs a spark in a bad way. And White needs some production to build confidence heading into the regular season. On the whole, the Bears’ top receivers have been disappointing this month. In the nine possessions the first-unit offense has had, their receivers have managed only seven catches for 51 yards.”

Amen.

Mike Glennon is taking some flack for his preseason performances and rightfully so. But when we look as his putrid 4.2 yards per attempt, we have to remember that his receivers are partially responsible. Specifically, that they aren’t getting open deep. that has to change or it isn’t going to matter who is at quarterback.

I agree. To an extent.

I always thought the front seven would be a strength for the Bears if they could keep them all healthy. But I have more doubts than most about the defensive back field.

One thing that absolutely must change is the turnover ratio. The Bears tied an all-time NFL record for fewest takeaways last year with 11 and I’ve seen little evidence during the preseason that this will improve enough to keep the Bears competitive consistently when playing decent teams.

Sunday is probably their last chance to give us some hope in this area. It will be a challenge not just to get the ball away but to continue to show why Bears fans are optimistic about them.

The Titans are an old school smash mouthed run first football team. They added speed to the offense in the offseason in the form of first round wide receiver Corey Davis and they brought in Eric Decker to play the slot. Derrick Henry has also been lining up in the slot in the preseason.

All-in-all there has been a significant effort to diversify the offense and the Bears defense is going to have their toughness and skill tested at every level of the defense.

  • There’s a lot of excitement about Mitch Trubisky starting the second half against the Titans and Fox has said that he hopes the Titans keep their starters in.

I really hope that Bears fans aren’t going to be too disappointed if Trubisky doesn’t play well. Two things define Dick LeBeau’s defense: amoeba fronts and complex five-man blitzes on passing downs.

It could get ugly out there for a rookie quarterback who wasn’t even very experienced by college standards.

The Bears Are Gradually Challenging Trubisky to Transition to Pro Style And Other Points of View

“Mitch Trubisky’s second preseason outing was far less attention-grabbing than his first. His final numbers — 6-for-8, 60 yards, a TD pass and a 135.4 rating — were solid. And he once again took care of the ball, now up to 65 preseason plays and eight possessions without a turnover.

“Trubisky got away with a throw to Titus Davis that was nearly intercepted. He was also sacked for a loss of 7 in the fourth quarter when he couldn’t escape a six-man rush and held the ball a beat too long.

“It’s still hard to envision Trubisky making a rapid leap to unseat [Mike] Glennon as the starter by Week 1.”

Agreed.

Trubisky was not as good as last week for 2 reasons:

  1. The Bears asked him to do more. He didn’t roll out, cutting the field and his reads in half, nearly as much. They put him under center more.
  2. The Cardinals showed him and the third team offense more. They got him on a sack that didn’t count on a delayed blitz and on one that did on another blitz that he likely hasn’t seen before. He had one near INT.Trubisky naturally isn’t going to look as good as the Bears challenge him to leave his comfort zone and become the quarterback he needs to be in a pro style offense.  Bears fans are going to have to be patient as that happens.
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. Biggs does a shrewd analysis of the players on the special teams units during the Arizona game to see what can be gleaned in terms of who makes the backend of the roster and who doesn’t:

“The one thing that jumps out a little bit is the absence of Kyle Fuller. If he’s going to stick with the Bears as a reserve cornerback, you’d figure he’s got to have a hand in the action on special teams. That could be coming but we’ll have to wait and see.”

What jumped out at me was the absence of Ka’Deem Carey. Carey is in his annual battle to make this team and with the emergence of Tarik Cohen and the decent possibility that tight end Ben Braunecker becomes a core special teams player, Carey’s roster spot is in serious jeopardy. A lot may come down to what the Bears decide to do with running back Benny Cunningham. Cunningham returns kicks and was getting a look with the punt coverage teams.

I’d say that, along with Jeremy Langford, who also was absent from the list of special teams players, both Carey and Fuller may be in serious trouble.

  • Brian Urlacher was very positive in this interview. I’m much more likely to listen to him when he has negative comments now that I’ve heard some positives.

    Urlacher may not be the grumpy ex-player I thought he was.

Previewing the Jaguars and Other Points of View

• Next up for the Bears is the Jacksonville Jaguars. My first thought is that this is a very mineable game for the Bears. Even though Jacksonville beat the Colts in a sloppy, penalty filled game in London, they don’t appear to me to be any better. Quarterback Blake Bortles is the hope for this franchise and he had a pretty good game against the Colts. One thing to note is that the Colts flat out could not cover 6’0” wide receiver Allen Robinson. Stopping him will be a high priority for the Bears. Their pass protection is an issue and once gain the Bears front seven has an opportunity to make an impact in this game, hopefully in both halves of football this time. Also notable was that the Jaguars had a tough time handling the Colts no huddle offense. Look for that to be a staple for the Beas this game.
• As long time readers of this blog know, I have very little sympathy for players who fail to face adversity in the day-to-day competition of the game. Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams is such a player and I notice that he has a new excuse.

Last year Williams blamed Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan for his poor performance last season, claiming that Ryan played him out of position at outside linebacker.

Well, this year he’s back at defensive end for the Dolphins. How’s that going for you, Mario?

“… If we can get guys to hold the ball a little longer,” William said of the sacks. “The ball’s coming out pretty quick.

Ah. So it’s the defensive back’s fault now. I see.

Through five games, Williams has recorded seven tackles (including just two for loss), three quarterback hits and one little sack. He did not appear on the stat sheet at all on Sunday in a loss to the Titans in which there was virtually no pass rush from the defensive line.

Yes, the ball is coming out fast. But Williams knows as well as anyone that’s true around the NFL nowadays. Defensive linemen still manage to perform despite that, through talent and determination. There is an old saying that has been passed around the NFL for decades: “There are a thousand reasons for failure, but not a single excuse.” It’s getting late for Mario Williams to learn that lesson but he needs to do so.
• Some mild uproar was raised in Chicago last week as a fan who ran out on the field during a Bears game wearing a gorilla suit and a t-shirt with a protest logo on it was arrested. The bail of $250,000 was considered by some to be excessive. I’m all for the right to free speech and protest. But you have to be smart about your method for doing so. Running out on the field is not only can result in a dangerous situation for both participants and fans and as an interested viewer I definitely don’t want to see protesters trying it every game. As far as I’m concerned, the more strongly such behavior is discouraged, the better.
Jeff Fisher is 3-2 this season as head coach of the LA Rams and after a reasonable start it appears that his team is on the way back to the 0.500 mark.

Fisher’s MO is that he gets the team very high for divisional games. The problem is that getting the players too high for those games leads them to let down against teams outside the division. Fisher’s record against divisional opponents since 2012 is almost 0.500 but against non-divisional foes it drops to 15-24 with one tie. Hence big wins early in the season against the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. But we’ve yet to see them try to sustain it against teams that they should be able to beat outside the division. Whether his team rises or falls this year will depend upon how Fisher and his players handle those games, something they’ve done a poor job of in the past.
• The Arizona Cardinals are 2-3 and after a poorly played win on Thursday night against the hapless 49ers they appear to be rapidly regressing after an excellent year last season.

The Cardinals were the toast of the NFL after going deep into the playoffs last year under head coach Bruce Arians. Arians’ bravado and forthrightness makes him well respected by members of the media and the team even had a special series produced by Amazon.com about them in the offseason.

Now it looks like the team is falling back down to earth a bit. The now injured Carson Palmer hasn’ t looked like the same quarterback he was last year and he seems to be continuing this year the way he left off in the playoffs last year, a 49-15 loss to the Panthers in which he looked like he allowed the pressure of the game to get to him.

Fans around the league love Arians and he’s ridden a wave of kudos. But now is when he and his staff really have the opportunity to show who they really are. Facing adversity, the question is whether they are good enough to pull the Cardinals out of their funk to finish a season well in which they started so poorly. The bet here is that they do it. But the proof will be in the pudding.

Bears Will Face Stiff Competition for a Guard in Free Agency

Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press thinks the Lions could be big spenders in free agency:

“With a projected cap north of $150 million, and the likelihood they free up more room with cuts or retirements, the Lions have the potential to be significant players in free agency if new general manager Bob Quinn chooses.”

“The Lions have holes on both lines, at linebacker and at receiver this off-season, and their need for a pass catcher could amplify if Calvin Johnson retires, as he’s hinted he might do.

“If Johnson retires, the Lions, who currently have more available cap space than 11 other teams, will gain an additional $11 million in spending room.”

The Lions, like the Bears, might have plenty of cap space but they are one of many, many teams that have needs on the offensive line including playoff teams Minnesota, Seattle and Arizona to name a few. All of these teams will face stiff competition for any offensive lineman who is worth his salt and who hits free agency. That’s going to drive the price up into the stratosphere.

The Bears, at least, are going to have to look for their right guard in the draft. Any team hoping to fill their holes in that area through free agency and is willing to put out the money needed to do it is likely building the foundation of their offense on sand.

Vic Fangio and The “Head Coach Type”

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. this one was about why Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio didn’t get an interview for a head coaching position:

“Fangio is 57 but we have seen older coaches get their first crack at a head job recently with Bruce Arians enjoying tremendous success in Arizona. Fangio isn’t a very political guy and I say that not as a positive or a negative but simply as an observation that you get. Every head coach that was hired this offseason was from an offensive background.”

The comparison to Arians might be a good one here in more ways than age. Arians, like Fangio, “isn’t a very political guy”. From the quotes that I have read, he’s a straight shooting guy who will walk in to a room and firmly tell you what he thinks.

That sounds like a good thing in theory and that’s what everyone says that they want to hear. But the reality is something different. Some of the smartest people I know are like this and I’ve found over time that it’s a mistake not to listen to them. But I’ve also noticed that they rarely get asked to work with people in teams on administrative tasks. The truth is that straight shooters often tell it like it is with little tact and sometimes they are so firm that it comes across as an attack. That’s not good and they often impress as uncompromising to administrative types in any business, not just football. You need a guy who can get his point across while still leaving the people around the table certain that he’ll play nicely if things don’t go his way.

If I were to guess as to why Arians didn’t get the job in Chicago when he interviewed in 2013, I’d say that he scared some people off with his forthright attitude, particularly then general manager Phil Emery, who had been dealing with a very stubborn and opinionated Lovie Smith. That was the Bears loss. But it is also understandable.

I’m making some assumptions here but if Fangio is to get his chance at a head coaching job, he’s probably going to have to make sure that everyone he meets knows that he’s a team player no matter what the circumstances. Expressing an opinion is a tone that is calm and reasoned with less emotional baggage usually helps. In fact, it’s usually essential. Otherwise, Bears fans will be happy to have him in Chicago for as long as he wants to be here.

It’s Viking Week and You Know What That Means…

It was in 2001 after a particularly tough loss to the Bears when I found this cry from a Viking fan on the Internet.  Long time readers of my blog posts at various sites over the years know that it has been reposted every season since during Viking week.

My admiration for this anonymous fan is almost as strong as my sympathy for anyone who is stuck rooting for what is traditionally one the most gutless teams in the NFL.  I think that, more than any other organization, the Vikings have probably made the least out of the most talent over the last twenty years.  But I will never be able to express that sentiment with the eloquence of this poet.  Enjoy.

I’ve had it! I can’t take this shit no more! I’m done! THIS TEAM IS A  GODDAMN EMBARASSMENT AND I HAVE HAD IT! I BURNED MY VIKINGS FLAG YESTERDAY, CHUCK FOREMAN GAVE IT TO ME WHEN I WAS A KID! I BURNED THE FUCKING THING AND MY WIFE FREAKED OUT SO I ENDED UP FORKING THE FIERY RAG AND THROWING’ER IN THE WEBER GRILL. GODDAMN RACCOONS! AND GODDAMN THE HEARTLESS VIKINGS AND ALL THEIR GODDAMN EXCUSES! I WANT MY DEVOTION BACK! AND ALL THOSE GODDAMN GAMES, AND ALL THOSE GODDAMN HEARTBREAKS!.

I QUIT. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!.

ARE WE CURSED? ARE WE CURSED?!!

As a bonus addition, I’ve added the radio call of the last Hail Mary pass in the Vikings’ (gutless and predictable) loss to the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals in the final game of 2003.  The loss (and the play) knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs.  Just listening will immediately warm any Bear fan’s heart.

Game Winning TD, Vikings-Cardinals, 2003

For Heaven’s Sake, Jalen Saunders

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune relays that Bears practice squad wide receiver Jalen Saunders has been suspended for 10 games violating the league’s substance abuse policy:

“Ten-game suspensions come when a player has violated the policy for a fourth time.

“The Bears signed Saunders to the practice squad on Sept. 7 and transferred him to the practice squad/injured list on Oct. 6. The New York Jets drafted him in the fourth round out of Oklahoma last year and he was released just one month into the season. He then spent time with the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints before the season ended. “

He’s violated the policy four times in just two years? He’s either got a huge drug problem or he’s extremely stupid.  I can’t imagine the Bears keep this guy around.

Game Comments: Cardinals at Bears 9/20/15

18a41f773646a08830001dbf8db59e39Defense

  1. The Bears once again, had trouble getting pressure on the quarterback. Palmer took a few hits but generally speaking he looked comfortable in the pocket. This has become a major issue. Palmer was very accurate and looked good.
  2. Other than that, I thought the Bears defensive line held their own at the line of scrimmage today. Rushing yards were hard to come by as Arizona only had 30 at half. They ran the ball better after that with the Bears down by a ton of points. The outside linebackers and defensive ends began having a very hard time setting the edge in the second half.
  3. The Cardinals finally took advantage of Adrian Amos at safety as he struggled in coverage. This is something that many were surprised that the Packers didn’t do last week.
  4. In truth the entire Bears defensive backfield was exposed this game. The Cardinals have a lot of speed at wide receiver and the Bears struggled to keep up. Notably, Kyle Fuller struggled again. This was the major difference in the game.
  5. Boy, Jared Allen looks uncomfortable in coverage. I keep waiting for someone to take advantage of him by sending the running back out into patterns more.
  6. Bryce Callahan, not Terrance Mitchell, replaced Demontre Hurst as the sixth defensive back in the dime package. Mitchell should be a better cover corner in single coverage on the outside and playing the dime corner may not be his strength. Mitchell saw time at corner late in the game as the Bears are apparently searching for answers there.
  7. Brandon Dunn held his own today after being promoted from the practice squad. He wasn’t getting a lot of penetration but he occupied his blockers and wasn’t getting blown off the line of scrimmage.
  8. It was interesting to see Jared Allen getting his hands up for a tip and an interception just before half. You have to wonder if he wasn’t watching the Cardinals do it from the sideline before making the adjustment himself. The Bears got a field goal off of it.
  9. How deos Shea McClellin end up trying to cover Larry Fitzgerald on a Cardinals touchdown early in the third quarter? That may have been a broken coverage on the flea flicker but it was just one example of some of the puzzling coverage mismatches in this game.

Offense

  1. Bears came out playing a lot of double tight end, something which made a lot of sense given that injured wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was inactive with an injury. They used both Zack Miller and Martellus Bennett split out wide (along with Matt Forte) instead and did so reasonably effectively.
  2. The Bears did a good job of mixing it up and executing both on the run and the pass this game against a very good Arizona defense.
  3. More than usual, this game was going to be about the line of scrimmage offensively with the Bears trying to run the ball against a tough Arizona defensive front. The Bears held their own but the Cardinals are so fast to the ball that the Bears had a tough time of it. There was too much penetration against the run but Cutler got some nice protection. The protection for Clausen was less impressive as the Cardinals knew that the Bears had to throw from behind. Kyle Long held his own this week but he still gave up a sack in the fourth quarter.
  4. Speaking of the Cardinals being fast to the ball, I was surprised that the Bears didn’t do a better job of taking advantage of their aggression. They were clearly ready to defend the screen pass but some counter runs and reverses might have worked well.
  5. Having said that, the Bears game plan was not without misdirection. Interesting use of the read option by the Bears as Cutler faked the handoff to Jeremy Langford in the first quarter and took the ball himself to the outside for a first down. One of the many very clever and new ways that the Bears took advantage of Cutler’s mobility. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of that.
  6. Nice job by Cutler finding Josh Bellamy on the broken coverage for the first Bears touchdown.
  7. Cutler looked much, much better now that the Packers left town. He was much more accurate with some very strong throws. Unfortunately, the interception before half time on a poor throw behind Martellus Bennett marred the effort. Cutler was injured as he landed on his shoulder trying to make the tackle on what turned out to be a pick six. The Bears said that it was a hamstring injury.
  8. The Bears did a good job of giving Langford more carries this game. Not that I like seeing Forte on the sideline but the rest is good for him.
  9. It was interesting to watch the Arizona Cardinals adjust as the game goes on. They were having trouble getting to the quarterback so they simply started counting in their heads and then jumping and putting their hands up to bat passes down. It was very effective.
  10. Jimmy Clausen looked hesitant and had trouble getting rid of the ball. HIs accuracy was poor. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the Bears went down by so many points that the whole stadium knew that they had to pass. Clausen looked like a back up who was unprepared after being throw into the game and asked to do his job.

Miscellaneous

  1. Thom Brennaman was the consumate professional play-by-play man, as usual. I like Charles Davis when he’s doing the draft but I like him a lot less as a color man. He’s not as good as many of the best when it comes to pointing out the technical details of the game to the viewer. I’d call him adequate. Tony Siragusa was practically useless on the sideline.
  2. Things got off to a rough start on special teams once again for the return game as David Johnson returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. There was a horrible line drie kickoff after the Bears first touchdown. Robbie Gould has been struggling with those. Other than that, I’d say it was a nondescript performance.
  3. Both sides once again had too many penalties, especially of the pre-snap kind. Teh Cardinals committed 8 penalties for 58 yards while the Bears committed 14 for 170 which tied a franchise record. The Bears’ numbers were inflated by a couple of very long pass interference penalties as the game was tightly called in the defensive backfield. There was an inexcusable 12 men on the field penalty against the Bears in the second half. Vlad Ducasse was once again a particular problem with a false start and a holding penalty. I feel compelled to remind everyone that there’s a reason why the Bears were so hesitant to move Long to right tackle.
  4. Drops were not a problem on either side.
  5. Turnovers killed both teams today. Jay Cutler threw a pick six right before half Then the Cardinals followed up with a fumble and an interception, each resulting in only 6 Bears points. The Bears had to take better advantage of those opportunities. Jimmy Clausen picked up where Cutler left off, throwing a bad interception to Patrick Peterson, who had Marquess Wilson well covered.
  6. I’d like to thank Bruce Arians for using all of those timeouts before half to save time for a final drive, only to fumble the punt and give the Bears a field goal. I admire aggressiveness but your team better be of the type to take advantage of it or it can kill you.
  7. Once again, the Bears settled far too often for field goals in this game. They aren’t going to be able to continue to do that, especially with their defense being as bad as it is.
  8. How bad have things gotten when you find yourself desperately rooting for your team to keep the points given up under 50? And consider it to be a minor victory when they don’t.
  9. I can’t emphasize enough how bad the Bears defensive backfield is right now. The lack of pressure on the quarterback is exacerbating the problem. These sorts of games where the Bears give up huge numbers of points are going to be fairly common unless something is done. In the mean time, the team has to play nearly perfect football in every other way to make up for it. That means particularly that they can’t afford the turnovers or the penalties that we saw in this game.

 

Sundays Can’t Be Blue Mondays

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times asks 10 questions going into the Bears game against the Cardinals Sunday:

“5. Why do the Bears have a more strenuous Saturday practice than most?

“‘Really, it’s just science behind it,’ coach John Fox said. ‘People used to shut it down on Saturdays. They’re saying now, getting a sweat or getting a lather on the day before you compete is actually a positive thing. It helps you sleep. It helps calm the nerves some.'”

I’m a huge believer in this even though I’m going to guess that at least some of the players don’t like it.

Most players undoubtedly want to rest as much as possible before a game and every time you hit the field, even if its just to work up a sweat, is an opportunity to get hurt.

Nevertheless, I’m quite sure this will result in better performance on Sunday and I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to see it catch on around the league. Anyone will tell you that Mondays stink. The reason most commonly given is that you are coming back to work after an enjoyable two day long vacation. And, hey, I admit that you need to rest.

But its more than that. Mondays are the days when we have to restart our engines. That takes time and, assuming you are like most people, you aren’t going to be working optimally for most of the day. The same thing undoubtedly goes for football players. Much better to keep that engine idling and ready to go right up until game time.

Mondays...

The Bears had a bad habit of coming out looking flat last year. And few things are more irritating than to hear a coach come out after the game to say that he “doesn’t understand it. They practiced really well this week.” Yeah, sure they did. But it didn’t carry over because all momentum was halted right before the game when it was needed the most. I don’t think that we’re going to be seeing this team come out unprepared to play mentally nearly as often this year.